One of the most effective pathways to habit transformation is visualization. In the late seventies, Carl and Stephanie Simonton wrote Getting Well Again, a pioneering work on the connection between the mind and the body in cancer patients. This connection was demonstrated through a series of visualization activities that supported cancer patients in their desires to recover. My family was particularly interested in this work because in 1977 our beloved Aunt Peg had been diagnosed with breast cancer and was in recovery from a mastectomy; in fact, it was Peg who told us about the book as a way of introducing her rather unconventional – at least for the time – choice to include hypnotherapy sessions in her recovery process. As we listened to her thoughts about her “cancer visitor” and read the Simontons’ seminal work, we discovered how incredibly rich and powerful daily visualization sessions could be.
Peg decided to support her surgeon’s work and her followup treatments by visualizing a beautiful silver dragon whose only task was to swim through all her cells and snack on any cancer she found in them. As a busy operating room nurse with lots of commitments, Peg enjoyed taking time each lunchtime to put her feet up and ask her silver dragon to take care of her, and for several years after her surgery, her first and last communications each morning and evening were with her dragon. Her habit of intentional communication with her dragon was very different from her previous habits. As a dedicated, passionate nurse, she often put others – patients, doctors, other nurses – first. Her hypnotherapist helped Peg to transform a very serious self-denial/need-denial habit by introducing her to her inner healing energies. Always open-minded and spiritually aware, Peg jumped at the chance to practice this new, self affirming way of being in the world
At the same time that I learned of Aunt Peg’s diagnosis, I learned of an acquaintance’s similar diagnosis. We didn’t know one another well, but when we met at a gathering and she brought up her cancer diagnosis, I told her about the Simontons’ work and the success my aunt was having with visualization. Although the woman was in middle age, prosperous by any standards, and had a great deal to live for, she spoke of her cancer as a death sentence rather than a life opportunity. She told me she didn’t want to know anything about what others were doing because her job was to follow her doctor’s orders. Sadly, she died within a year of our conversation while Peg went on to live another thirty-five years. This personal comparison matched what the Simonton research proved; folks who got involved in their healing, who took charge and developed new ways of relating to themselves survived months, years, and often decades longer than those who gave responsibility for their illness to outside forces, including heredity and the medical profession.
I tell this story to illustrate the importance of becoming aware of how we see and behave toward ourselves. The habits we are in the process of transforming are often rooted in our beliefs about who we are. If we see ourselves as adventurous, positive, and courageous, willing to take new, life affirming actions, our physical self will respond to this view by taking us into a more positive future. If we see ourselves as condemned by genes, bad luck, or negative relationship experiences, our physical self will respond to this view and take us even deeper into depression and hopelessness. Indeed, the way we see ourselves, positively or negatively, determines how competent we feel in meeting life’s challenges.
Conscious visualization supports a positive relationship with ourselves. Closing our eyes for a few minutes during our morning work routine and smiling as we see ourselves as we want to be – optimistic, resilient, kind, and faithful to ourselves and our new habits – actually helps us to realize our transformation goals. When we couple visualization with tapping, we form a dynamic combination of activities to help us meet our goals ever more quickly. Tapping through the points while saying, “Everything is effortless today. I love being alive. My body is humming and my mind is clear; my heart is open and my spirit is soaring, and I happily bless everyone I meet and open to the unimaginable good in the universe,” is a generic way to support the effortless flow of energy that we experience when we are “in the zone” as we move through our days.
Like my Aunt Peg, we can see whatever habit or condition we focus on as a visitor, an energetic being that comes with a message for us to change. Understanding the visitor’s message is key, of course. Peg stopped rushing about doing everything she could for anyone who asked; her silver dragon supported her in taking time for herself, for tuning in to what she wanted and needed to return to balance and experience joy. Her visualization practice didn’t suddenly transform her into a selfish uncaring individual; rather, it helped her to become more discerning as a helper and therefore less co-dependent and more effective. Her cancer visitor taught her that she had to put herself in the life equation along with everyone else. Once she learned this lesson and expressed her deep gratitude for the opportunity to learn it, her cancer visitor moved on and so did she.
Embracing ourselves as wonderfully creative architects of the lives we want to live can begin with taking a few minutes throughout our day to commune with ourselves with conscious visualization and tapping sessions. Both techniques are imaginative and artful; in other words, we don’t have to follow an outline or prescribed protocol but can trust our imaginations to take us where we need to go. Tapping and visualization are gentle, always available, and free tools to support the changes we are ready to make. Life affirming and sustainable, these simple, effective tools empower us to see ourselves anew.
Until next week